It’s Not About Doing More
Progress doesn’t sustainably happen by doing more.
While we might see some short term progress that comes from pushing ourselves, making things happen, and doing more and more, there’s no sustainability in this.
Countless adults are burnt out on “doing more” in response to a culture that doesn’t know when to stop.
We push ourselves to the brink of breakdown, becoming exhausted and overwhelmed.
We no more than finish one thing, only to feel that we must dive into the next.
We feel like we must keep up with the pace that the patriarchal dominance culture of “getting ahead” has set for us.
Even young adults going into the world on their own for the first time are already feeling burnt out after years of schooling that was all about making the grade, following the rules, and sticking to the curriculum.
The more we try to keep this frenetic pace, the less progress we make.
We can see the cost of running on empty all around us as unsustainable systems are crumbling.
We’ve Forgotten Ourselves
It’s quite normal for young adults graduating high school or college to feel uncertainty about who they are and what they want for themselves in the world.
In the rat race of the modern world, we forget ourselves before we even get to know ourselves.
Just as we’re moving into the world, we get caught up in the expectations of a culture of “shoulds.”
We should go to college. We should get a job. We should have a family. We should make lots of money. We should look a certain way. We should trust the status quo and not ask questions.
Pretty soon, we end up on autopilot, taking care of all the shoulds to such an extent that we don’t even recognize other options.
While it can be normal for young adults moving into the world to be unclear of who they are and what they want, this natural right of passage into adult life is taken advantage of via the pressures placed upon them.
Young adults are feeling tremendous pressure, anxiety, stress and overwhelm now more than ever as they see a world in turmoil. They may even feel angry, lost or apathetic.
At the same time, they may also have great vision for a new kind of future. They may be filled with innovative ideas and new approaches to how we do things as a culture.
The question is, are we listening to our young adults? Are we giving them space to listen to themselves?
Two Necessary Elements
Just as a key needs the right keyhole to fit into for a door to open, there are two elements that must be present for the door to a sustainable future to open…questioning and listening.
The key to progress is not about pushing harder and doing more, but is found in listening to what wants to come.
There’s little to listen to if we’re not also willing to ask challenging questions.
- What’s being asked of us?
- What are the strengths and inherent gifts we can share?
- What’s needed?
- How will life be impacted in the long run by the choices we make?
- What’s at the root of the challenges before us?
There are so many questions we can be asking, and sometimes we do. But the questions are useless if we don’t also take time to listen carefully for a response.
Listening is like the keyhole that receives the key of questioning. Without both, new doors cannot open.
Responses to our questions may come instantly, or take some time. They may come in clear outlines, or they may come in pictures and symbols.
Sometimes we may not get answers to our questions, and perhaps we need to be asking some new questions.
What new perspectives can we look at things from in order to find new questions? Who else could we connect and collaborate with in order to explore more thoroughly? What missing conversations are needed in order to more fully understand something such that peace may be possible?
When we’re asking good questions, we have more to listen for.
What Do We Listen To?
While we can ask great questions, and listen for responses to come, how do we know what to listen to?
What is true? What is worthy? What is valuable?
In order to determine what to listen to, it’s important to consider how we’re listening.
Are we listening from a place of expectation, or concern for what others think? Are we listening for answers, or for possibilities? Are we listening from stillness and quiet, or trying to hear through noise? Are we present in our listening, or distracted by other messages coming in?
Listening is a dying art in a world where so many people vie for attention through the noise.
We all long to be seen and heard, and as a result, our tendency is to speak and express more than to listen. Our culture rewards what’s entertaining, quick and powerful. The problem is that people grow tired of what’s entertaining, quick and powerful, seeking the next dopamine fix after the novelty fades.
Listening is slow, requiring patience and process. Listening generates sustainability.
Sadly, rather than waiting receptively for inspiration, we focus only on instant gratification, clinging to whatever answers offer a quick fix.
Answers are not the key, and seeking answers is not the keyhole. The key to our progressive evolution is in the questions, and the keyhole is in the receptive listening. One is masculine and one is feminine.
In today’s patriarchal dominance culture of unhealthy masculine and feminine qualities, we’ve lost the feminine qualities of listening and disallowed the healthy masculine qualities of questioning. We’re afraid to rock the boat with questions, or to be patient for inspired answers. We’re so results focused that we forget to be present to the process.
We must learn to listen to the softer voices, and the ones that come with more questions, rather than the noise that distracts us from our full potential.
Progress will not come from answers grasped through impatience, but through a harmonious dance between receptive listening and provoking questions.
Wolfram von Eschenbach’s story of Parzival hinges on the power of “asking the question” and thus finding inspiration for healing. Young adults deserve a space to pose and explore their questions, and the support to wait for the answers that inspire them to move forward in their life in a way that feels aligned and sustainable to their Soul.